Seychelles isn’t merely the honeymooners island escape you may think it is. Discover the island bursting with vivacity, culture and friendly faces and things to do in Seychelles. (As published in Equity magazine)
When you hear of the tropical Seychelles, you imagine sun, sand and sea. Lush green hills definitely don’t spring to mind. Let alone, mingling with the locals to get an understanding of the cuisine and culture. However, the islands of Seychelles are verdant with fresh crisp air that touches your skin upon arrival. To briefly paint a portrait of the country, Seychelles was initially a French colonization, and even though the British rule was in power for over 150 years, the French influence never managed to dispel. The country got its independence only recently, in the 1970s, and has since developed the economy through tourism, processing of vanilla, coconut fibre, and trade – the country exports over 50 per cent of tuna from the Indian Ocean, to France and the United Kingdom.
Mahé, the country’s largest and main island, is the most inhabited city in the country and from here, you can take a flight or boat to your island destination. Seychelles is also home to the smallest capital city in the world, Victoria, which oozes charm from its little Big Ben landmark to the colourful temple and Sir Selwyn Clarke Market where locals sell everything from fish and fruit and vegetables, to spices and souvenirs. To best discover Seychelles, spend time at one of the island resorts when you first arrive. Picking an island can be a tough choice, with Praslin being a hotspot for the Garden of Eden – where the world’s largest nut in the world, coco de mer, can be found – La Digue notorious for its boulders and beaches, North Island being the honeymoon destination of choice – Prince William and Duchess Kate Middleton vacationed here – and Silhouette popular for diving, hiking and absolute serene escape with the family.
Here are some things to do in Seychelles – incase you were wondering!?
Each island is steeped in history and this one is no different. Nestled just 20 kilometers away from the northwest of Mahé, the third largest of the archipelago, Silhouette, is home to the sprawling Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort.
The island can be seen from a distance and as you gradually get into holiday mode on your 45-minute sea journey, you will begin to conjure up images of days spent lazing by the white sandy beach. That isn’t all there is on offer though. Most countries are best experienced through their culinary offerings, so it’s best to begin your holiday at Grann Kaz, to tempt your taste buds with authentic Creole cuisine, which heavily boasts French and Indian influences. Once you’ve enjoyed a tangy and fresh fish salad, octopus coconut curry and a comforting warm banana dessert, it’s time to explore the premises. Grann Kaz, within the Village of La Passe, is perhaps the best starting point to get an idea of the island’s historical origins. Once home to Henri Dauban – owner of the island for over hundred years – the original plantation house established in the first half of the 19th century has since been preserved, with minor tweaks conducted to sustain itself and function as a restaurant serving up Creole dishes. Letters and newspaper clippings are framed and hung at their bedrooms upstairs for visitors to learn more.
The resort truly is a haven for couples and families. You can go on a hike, enjoy a picnic by the sea, experience rare flora and fauna sightings and immerse yourself wholly within history. On the way to your hike, make a pit stop at the Dauban Family Mausoleum, which contains the remains of Auguste Dauban, his wife Catherine and their first child Eva. Once you’ve ticked off the sights, it’s time to enjoy the comforts of your villa. The expansive villas boast an outdoor lounge with an infinity pool, just a few steps away from the Ocean, outdoor rain showers within the bathroom, large bath tubs with views of the outdoors, and a plush bed that you will sink into every now and then as you nap. For a bit of activity, play a game of chess on the large set outdoors, meander through the gorgeous pathways and lakes on a push bike, begin your morning with a yoga class, go snorkeling to spot turtles, octopus and colourful sea creatures. The mystical spa is worth a visit, set amidst the forest on a hillside, with large boulders and gekkos that woo you on your way to the treatment rooms, built around the bark of the tree. While Seychelles may not seem like your typical family vacation destination, your notion will be proved wrong at this resort, which offers plenty for little ones, from the large floats in the infinity pool to the kid’s club activities.
Culinary offerings are nothing short of exemplary here, with cuisines to suit every palate. A favourite with most guests is quite possibly the quaint beach bar that plays reggae tunes to set the mood. However, the Italian eatery (Portobello) is ideal for an alfresco meal with comfort food – think, ravioli doused in a creamy sauce, fresh seafood and risotto. When cravings for Asian food kick in, make your way to Sakura for contemporary Japanese or Teppanyaki for grilled fish prepared at the live cooking stations. Feeling peckish by the pool? Order freshly made pizza, island-inspired cocktails and light snacks at Lo Brizan.
Couples looking to carry on their stay at Seychelles, and in need of the humdrum of the main island after a few days for things to do in Seychelles, can make their way to Mahé for a bit of culture, sight-seeing, nightlife and shopping.
The stunning adults-only resort at Mahé, Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa, is a picturesque abode perched atop a hill, with wooden villas and suites that make up the space. The cabin-like vibe exudes cosiness, making guests want to stay in their villas to enjoy a cuppa on the terrace while gazing at the hills and sea. Upon walking around, we could see why author of the James Bond series, Ian Flemming, had a fervency towards this resort – the smallest Hilton hotel in the world – with its charming nooks and tucked away beaches, allowing the creative juices to flow as he penned away. The stunning infinity pool that looks out to the sea is where you will most likely want to spend all your time, whiling away with a book and fresh coconut water.
While the resort doesn’t offer plenty of activities – it is a honeymooners relaxing getaway after all – you can head into town to explore. Begin your journey at the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens located on the outskirts of Victoria to learn about endemic plants, explore exotic trees within the tropical gardens, spot a few flying bats (also a delicacy in Seychelles) and feed giant tortoises, some of which are over 150 years old. Make your way to the Mission Lodge after, a vantage point that offers panoramic views of the sea and mountains southwards across Mahé. By this point the hunger pangs may kick in, and there’s no better spot to enjoy an authentic Creole lunch than at the highly-recommended hilltop restaurant at Le Jardin Du Roi Spice Garden. Savour fresh fish cooked in a banana leaf with a side of gravy and rice, mango salad, and banana crepes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. All dishes are cooked with the plantation’s own spices. Walk through the 25-hectare garden after your meal and tour the Eighteenth-century gardens developed by the French to promote spice trading in the colonies. The nature walk exposes you to plenty of spices and plantations including cinnamon, cotton, and a strangely named lipstick tree – the fruit’s flesh stains your fingers with a vibrant pink-red hue.
As the day comes to an end, make your way back to the hotel for a much-needed massage at the spa, with treatment rooms that look out to the sea, or a hot bath drawn in your suite, complete with Peter Roth amenities. For dinner, choose between from the Hilltop restaurant for local entertainment accompanied by Italian and Asian specialties, or Les Cocotiers, that offers a Creole-international fusion meal under the stars – the perfect conclusion to an end-of-summer sojourn.
Air Seychelles offers direct flights from Abu Dhabi and is just a four-hour flight away. The codeshare with Etihad Airways, gives Business Class passengers access to the Lounge where they can help themselves to a widespread buffet, unwind with a beverage, and make use of the facilities. The Lounge also boasts a Six Senses Spa and Style & Shave outlet for ladies in need of a manicure-pedicure, and men who want to avoid the 5pm shadow.
Business Class tickets are available from Dhs6,650 per person. Visit airseychelles.com